IN the never-ending push to manufacture and operate in as lean an environment as possible, today's manufacturers are on the hunt for products that are smaller, faster, use fewer materials and increase efficiency, while at the same time maintaining or improving quality.
Sometimes those improvements are driven by product need and other times a "lean" manufacturing opportunity is born from innovation. Such was the case when Watlow introduced EZ-ZONE" ST technology to Minnesota-based Central Research Laboratories (CRL) in early 2006.
CRL, a long-time Watlow customer researches, designs and manufactures machines and systems that allow human operators to safely perform dexterous maneuvers in hazardous, "unfriendly," or sterile environments through tele-operation. Some CRL products are used by pharmaceutical manufacturers utilising isolator technology.
One of CRL's core product lines is the sterilisation of pharmaceutical transfer equipment. A beta flange gasket for their 190 mm Rapid Transfer Port is sterilised by dry heat before transferring items from a beta bag or container into a sterile isolator. A heater control system is required to ensure that the dry heat sterilising temperature is maintained for the selected soak time.
Lethality rate (Fh) is a measure of a system's sterilisation process. Typically, a programmable logic controller (PLC) system had been used to control the sterilisation process to ensure a repeatable lethality rate. For CRL, the control elements that made up the system included a process controller, limit controller, solid state relay, mechanical contactor, control thermocouples, limit thermocouples, temperature transmitters and a heater assembly.
Watlow's new EZ-ZONE ST integrated control loop combines the functions of a PID process controller, over-temperature limit protection, solid state relay power switching, heat sinking, mechanical contactor power disconnect, profile ramp and soak in one easy to use package.
EZ-ZONE ST offers CRL many other benefits including multiple program ramp and soak capabilities for differing time and temperature profile sterilization needs; a reduction in installation time, particularly wiring and termination time; and a hardware controller that reduces the size of the control enclosure and reduces assembly cost.